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Luke 2:49 – "Why were you searching for me?" [Jesus] asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (NIV)

These two probing questions, spoken by Jesus to His fretful parents, are found in the one and only account of Jesus' youth. I admit, for years, it seemed to me that Jesus was rather sharp toward His parents. Now, I find myself appropriately chastened by Jesus' words. Let me explain:

After a frantic, three-day search, Mary and Joseph find their missing son back in Jerusalem, chatting with the temple teachers. As any worried mother would do, Mary confronts Jesus: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." (Luke 2:48b NIV)

Shouldn't Jesus feel badly for making His parents suffer anxiety, never mind the exhaustion and the frustration from wasting three days on the road? Shouldn't He at least apologize? But Jesus assumes no responsibility for their anxiety. He won't let Mary shift the blame to Him. Being anxious instead of trusting God is their problem — not His. Through His question, "Why were you searching for me?" Jesus helps them to discover the driving motive behind their decision to search — which, as He would have seen, was their anxiety. Jesus doesn't provide the answer. He encourages them to think for themselves. It is a wise and gracious way of stirring them on toward deepening faith.

Unlike Jesus, I've often reacted to anxious people by feeling overly responsible to fix their woes. I've done too much of the thinking for them; I've even assumed blame. To me, this felt like the loving thing to do. No wonder Jesus' response to His mother has seemed insensitive to me.

As we see, Jesus does not pamper anxiety — for a good reason: Anxiety is like a vise grip that inhibits our ability to think and choose well. We assume that our distress is caused by factors outside of ourselves. But really, no person or situation has the power to make us anxious — unless we allow it. I've discovered this through hard knocks — and my own frantic "three-day" strategizings. Thankfully, no rescuer intercepted those learning experiences by offering quick escapes.

As long as we depend on others to dull our anxieties, we are never fully free to enjoy a vibrant faith. Likewise, as long as we feel responsible to appease other people's anxiety, we cannot be who we were meant to be. That's a dead-end mission which deprives everyone of opportunities to grow in trustful faith. This is not the path of love for others, for ourselves, nor ultimately for God.

In the one story of Jesus' youth, we can see that He had a firm grasp of the great commandment, the royal law of love. What a powerful example for us! We, too, can respond to fretfulness by shifting the focus from self-absorbed anxiety to careful thoughtfulness. In this way, we offer a refreshing "cup of water". We open the way to restful trust.

Prayer: Lord, train us to be effective managers of anxiety. May we develop the habit of casting all our anxieties on You — be they our own anxieties or those of others — so that Your kingdom may grow in and among us and Your will may be done on earth. Amen.

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About the author:

Diane Eaton <>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good food for thought Diane.

    Thank you Diane. Great reminder to rest on “the man upstairs”.

    Thank you Diane for your inspiring devotional on dealing with anxiety. Reading it today with much gratitude.

    Happy New Year Diane. Thank you for today’s message. Your overall message is a good one, though it does evoke some controversy, for me, at least. May your year ahead be a great one.

    Hi Diane
    I, absolutely loved your devotion today. I am that person who is always trying to please people, and always fail. Thanks.

    Very interesting. I never thought of it that way. I, too, tend to think everyone should follow my “schedule”. Thank you.

    Thank you Dianne. I too have had similar feelings. I think it is often our reaction to want to help ease another’s burden and yet what an important lesson for us as we walk the journey of faith. It seems I need that reminder about anxiety daily!! Yes it is so important to cast our cares upon him and leave them there instead of dragging a net of burdens behind us daily!

    Dear Diane:
    Thank you. I truly believe this is the answer to anxiety. I have a friend who suffers from severe anxiety and I hope she reads this wonderful message from you (from God). Holding her up in prayer is really the only answer along with kindness and love.
    So again I say, Thank you.
    God bless you and please keep writing.

    That was so good, it made me cry. I lived for years with a spouse who had extreme anxiety and bipolar. I took on his troubles and tried to ease his days but eventually burned out and left. (after many years, so sad). Your words (Bible teaching) were right to the point. We can not bear other people’s burdens. My son also has anxiety and showing signs of bipolar. I will send this on to both of them. They both grew up with Christian teachings but have deviated over the years. I won’t give up on them and still pray for God’s intervention.
    Thank-you for your message.

    Hi Diane, thank you for your thoughts in the devotional for today! I agree with you – that we can’t let our anxiety and the anxious people around us affect our wellbeing. I think that anxiety leads to negativity and in the end – depression and if we let this happen then we’re really not putting our faith in God. Plus it seems that anxiety is contagious and it’s easier for people to focus on all the “bad/negative stuff” going on — which just leads to more anxiety! I see this among my church family. It is the positive & faithful ones who seem to be the healthiest! Life can be over whelming at times and I sometimes feel like giving up — but then I pray, meditate and thank God for all the blessings in my life and this helps me get through the tough times. Wishing you much love & peace!

    I thoroughly enjoyed your devotional this morning. Thank you and amen!

    Thank you, Linda for sharing your observations on anxiety. Yes, anxiety is highly contagious! Think of the Israelites in the desert who were more persuaded by the negative reports of Canaan than the positive reports. It takes a lot of courage to remain steadfastly positive and faithful – and to avoid being sidelined by the worriers. It requires that we keep our eyes on God’s bigger picture – and are willing to stand alone.


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